Icon: Our Lady of the Don. Hexameron and Selected Saints

Icon: Our Lady of the Don. Hexameron and Selected Saints
(click image to zoom-in)
Painting, Tempera on panel and gilding, 32x26 cm
Origin: Russia, 16th - early 17th century

This single icon contains work by different masters, painted at two different times. The central area dates to the 16th century and is probably the work of a Moscow master, while the scenes in the surrounding fields are by an early 17th-century master from the Volga region.

According to a legend held within the family which once owned this icon, it formerly belonged to the family of Boris Godunov, Russian boyar and ruler. This type of icon gained its name in the 14th century: according to legend the original was presented by the Don Cossacks to Prince of Moscow, Dmitry Donskoy, before the Battle of Kulikovo, where the Slavs defeated the Mongol Tatars. "The Virgin of the Don" is a version of the icon known as the "Virgin of Vladimir". One identifying feature of these icons was the left hand of the Virgin: in the Virgin of the Don she does not hold out her hand to Christ in prayer as is usual, for the Child's bare legs rest upon her arm.

The surrounding scenes are of Church festivals, and it is from the inscriptions, which reflect the pronunciation of Russian in the area around the River Volga, that we learn the probable origin of the artist. The Volga area was closely linked with Novgorod and thus the images are painted in bright colours, with variegated haloes and much gilding, as was characteristic of Novgorod icon painting.

Personage: The Mother of God and Child
Source of entry: Purchasing Commission of the Experts of the State Hermitage Museum, 1960
Theme: The Bible and Christianity

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